Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Solidarity from Canada: Keep Fighting CNA - Stay Strong

Nurses in Sacramento Calif.
By Wendy Forest in Toronto*

The Kaiser CNA nurses deserve the support of working and poor people everywhere.
The CNA and National Nurses United have consistently placed themselves in the forefront of struggle to defend patient care and to fight for the right to decent wages, benefits and working conditions for their members. As a nurse in Toronto Canada I have followed their struggles for years and continue to be inspired by the their dedication to patients, their militant stand against for profit health care, their advocacy for patients.

The work of the CNA is a beacon of hope for health care workers and nurse activists who struggle within their unions to raise the standards of representation for members and care for clients/patients. What impresses me most is the depth of their analyses – the willingness to take on the often missed or deliberately overlooked negative trends and regulations based strictly in cost saving and rationing of health care. They then directly link these to detrimental affects on the health and well being of their clients.

From the beginning they used the resources of their members to actively track the deaths and deleterious effects on patients, which were and are a direct result of managed care (cost saving and rationing of care).   

They bravely and persistently fought against “gag orders” forced on members who advocated for their clients to receive adequate care and longer hospital stays when it was obvious that the needs were greater than amount of money private insurance would pay. They took this battle to the California legislature and won. An amazing victory!

Now they are fighting the imposition of sick time management (what the employer calls sick time “support. ”). While the leadership of nurses unions and other health care unions, with few exceptions in Ontario have allowed these punitive policies to proceed without a whimper of genuine protest, the CNA once again takes up the struggle against these punitive measures which force workers to come to work sick and by implication endanger the health and safety of patients and clients.

Once again the CNA is in the forefront by revealing the potential of imposed technology, health care informatics, to undermine their skills and expertise in the name of health care rationing and monitoring of workers in their day- to -day practice.

The potential of technology in for profit health care to limit care and ultimately lead to further denial of care, is immense and frightening. Skilled nurses are forced to spend hours inputting data on their patients, time that should be spent at the bedside providing the physical, emotional and psychological support they need.

Much of the data we are forced to collect services the needs of the insurer and not the patient. The CNA once again has succeeded in applying their resources to uncover the sophisticated ways that private health care, the abomination on society that it is makes both workers and patients sicker, deprives hundreds of thousands of necessary care and even kills.
Calling and fighting for nurse/patient ratios is another way that the CNA persists in their fight for quality patient care. Saving money by understaffing, refusing to hire, by not replacing staff who call in sick are among the many ways that health care is undermined in the name of cost saving.

Nursing is by its very nature an occupation that is dangerous to the health of workers who perform this socially necessary job. Shift work alone results in poor health, and can lead to premature death among health care workers.

Compounded by the physical, psychological and emotional stress that is a result of heavy patient assignments that prohibit the ability to use our skills effectively to care for our patients-often result in severe burn out when nurses and health care workers internalize their frustration and often blame themselves for what is in fact a deliberate attempt on the part of government, private health care corporations and shareholders to limit health care in order to increase profits.

In Canada, health care workers experience everyday the undermining of publicly funded and administered health care. The neoliberal agenda to privatize all public services and profit from sickness and despair is advancing rapidly.

In Ontario the leadership of our nurses union sold out our right to strike decades ago and over the last decade the introduction of essential service legislation prohibits the right to strike for the majority of health care providers.

This compromise on the part of our labour leadership, this partnering with employers, with the capitalist class, is a betrayal of workers and of the most desperate members of our society-the sick and the disabled, the poor and unemployed and precarious workers, racialized groups and women and children are the victims.

The California Nurses Association deserves the utmost support and shame on those who do not support them. The 2-day strike is a beginning.  I wish I were able to be physically present to support them on the picket line and in every way possible.

Solidarity sisters and brothers. And thank you.

*Wendy Forrest
Member of Ontario Nurses Association (personal capacity)

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